You wouldn’t think we’d leave Aoraki / Mount Cook without seeing New Zealand’s longest glacier, would you? Tasman glacier is approximately 27 kilometres in length and located entirely within Mount Cook National Park. It flows south from the snow-capped Mount Tasman and Aoraki / Mount Cook, from the height of 3 kilometres above sea level, and melts into a glacier lake.
To see the Tasman Glacier and its terminal lake, we took the Glacier Explorers boat tour. The tour departed from The Hermitage Hotel, and a bus took us to the Tasman Valley. On the way, we passed by a rocky mountain which was used in the Lord of the Rings filming as the back side of Minas Tirith! From where the bus dropped us, it was a 30-minute hike to the lake. We put on life vests, and enjoyed a cruise on the milky blue lake, easily one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. We could only view the Tasman Glacier from a safe distance as at any given time, icebergs of all shapes and sizes could tear away from the glacier and rise up from beneath us. Some were floating and have already been moving around the lake, so of course we took the chance to touch and feel the 300-500 year old ice crystals melt in the palms of our hands.
We were told that since the 1990s, the glacier has been retreating, even faster in recent years, and it is estimated that in 10-19 years’ time, the Tasman glacier will eventually disappear, leaving behind a much bigger Tasman Lake. If you haven’t seen this amazing sight firsthand, don’t let the expression “glacial speed” fool you!
Photos by Arnold Hozana